Grass root effort formed in Hegins Twp.
Published: January 17, 2013
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VALLEY VIEW - Approximately 40 people gathered Thursday evening at the Hegins Area Ambulance Building to learn more about a grass root effort being led by Jeff Kline to stop the development of BP Wind Energy to construct a windfarm in Hegins Township.
The purpose of the meeting was to inform the public of what is going on at this point and to form the Hegins Valley Preservation Association.
On December 12, 2012 the Hegins Twp. Zoning Hearing Board held a meeting and denied a variance for BP Wind Energy to erect a third test tower in the township. The zoning hearing board has 45 days to present its decision in writing at which time BP will have 30 days to appeal the decision.
"It's very important to keep public pressure on this topic," said Jeff Kline, a Schwenks Road resident, who is leading the group of citizens against the wind turbines. "It is still very early in the process but this is the time to make sure BP Wind does not get a foot hold in the valley. The longer this goes the harder it will be to deny approval. BP has deep pockets and vast legal resources as well as federal government funding. We can't afford missing this opportunity to stop their progress. We do have the support of our local supervisors and expect they will make the right decisions as they are presented. We need to show our local government that the community is together in opposition to the wind farm."
Kline with the help of Kris Wetzel, an adjoining land owner to the proposed site for the turbines, presented information to those in attendance and fielded questions.
Kline presented history of BP's interaction with Hegins Township.
The process began when BP held informational meetings at both Williams Valley and Tri-Valley High Schools on December 15-16, 2008 respectively. According to Kline, BP placed their first test tower on the top of the mountain in Hegins Twp. in 2008 and then a second test tower in 2010. He said the first tower is located at the top of the mountain in the area behind Morgan Oil and the second is located at the top of the mountain almost directly behind the township building.
According to Kline, the first tower had fallen over at one time from an ice storm and needed to be replaced. At the time of replacement, BP was supposed to go before the zoning hearing board for permission to replace it, but never took that step and replaced the tower without receiving another variance to do so.
Kline said in 2010 plans were underway in Hegins Township to create a windmill ordinance. After discussion and investigating other township ordinances, Hegins Township did create and adopt a windmill ordinance which is in place today.
"Since the zoning hearing board met last month to discuss BP's request for a variance for the third test tower and the zoning hearing board's denial of the variance, we felt it was time to form this group and try to fight these things from coming to our township," said Kline. "We are in a waiting situation right now, but we must keep the pressure on and let BP know that we are not in favor of this."
Kline presented a petition to those in attendance and asked that they all sign it and also take a copy of it with them to gather signatures as well. He said the petition will be presented to the Hegins Twp. Supervisors at their next meeting on Monday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Hegins Area Ambulance Building.
The petition read as follows:
* This petition has been prepared in opposition of the construction in the township of Hegins, PA by BP Wind Energy, NA., Inc.
* To support the townships decision to deny the variance for a meteorological wind tower.
- To request that the township continue to defend the zoning board decision against the meteorological tower through any appeal process.
- To support the township in NOT allowing industrial wind turbines outside of I-1 zoning district.
We oppose this industrial wind development for the following reasons:
1. Public health threat (noise, shadow flicker, ice throws, effects on communication) The known impacts that this will have on the public health, as well as the yet-to-be determined unknown impacts is concerning. There is a minimal buffer between the proposed towers and existing homes or properties. There exists a real and certain threat to the health of the people in Hegins Township.
2. Cost to the community (loss of property value)
The fiscal impacts of the industrial windfarm extend well beyond the costs for construction based on the aftermath of construction in other communities in Pennsylvania and other states, it is likely that this industrial wind development will cause a significant negative impact to land values in not only the towns where it will be located, but also in surrounding communities within its viewshed.
3. Impacts to Wildlife
It is known that thousands of birds, bats, deer, bear, and other wildlife have been killed as a result of industrial wind farms in other areas. The zoned S-1 (special purpose wooded area) where this development is proposed is home to countless species that are critical for the local food chain, including but not limited to: deer, black bear, bald eagles, hawks, frogs, snakes, dragonflies, honey bees, and butterflies. This development will destroy thousands of habitat forever.
4. Real amount of electricity produces (inefficiency of wind farms) It is understood that electricity needs to be supplied to the general public, and that there is a cost benefit for this. However, the actual amount of energy produced from this development will be a mere fraction of a percent of the total energy consumption needed to be affective.
This development has been in the planning phases for years, we need to be proactive by stopping this project before it has a chance to take root. The negative consequences of this industrial windfarm development far outweigh the benefits. We the people of Hegins Township want this stopped to protect our homes, our land, and our community. We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to stop BP Wind Energy NA, Inc. from the development of industrial wind turbines in the above mentioned area of Hegins Township.
"We have to prepare for BP to appeal this because ultimately this is what they will probably end up doing," said Kris Wetzel, an adjoining land owner to where BP plans to erect the turbines, and who was offered a monetary deal from BP to come on board with the project, but refused what they offered. "We are trying to put this preservation society together in short order and hope to incorporate with the Hegins Environmental Association which has been in existence since the 1980's. We have been in contact with them and they are planning to help us as much as they can. At this point we just need to get the community on board with us and get as much support as we can."
Kline said BP has sent letters to land owners who border the property where the wind turbines will be installed, requesting them to sign legal documents to give up their property rights for cash values which would allow them to move forward with the wind farm. Kline said on some occasions BP representatives have been found trespassing on Schwenks Road properties and have spray painted some areas where borders are. Kline said the authorities have been notified of the trespassing.
"Does everyone see a value in having an organization to keep a monitor on what's going on with the wind process,?" Kline asked. "I feel its become more of a burden for a handful of people to manage this than it would be to have an entire community help. We need to see what happens and we want this group to be organized and in order to do this, I feel we need to identify a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer."
Kline called for nominations from the public and he was nominated and voted on to serve as president. Although there were no further nominations for the other positions, several members of the public said they would think about it and might consider holding a position at a later time.
Ralph Lucht of Hegins, was asked to serve as treasurer, but said he would sooner be someone who just talks and is in the crowd.
"These things will not help us in any way," said Lucht. "They won't make our utilities go down, they will go up. Wind turbines are a burden on our utilities. The only reason BP is doing this is for the subsidy funding from the government. They are a waste of money."
The organization hopes to have another meeting after the zoning decision has been written and it's determined what BP intends to do.
"I'm glad there's an organization like this," said Supervisor Brad Carl. "We have so much going on in the township. We are in contact with BP to get information so we know the facts going into the project. We need an organization like this to inform us what's going on in different areas, for instance there was a group like this that stopped the wind turbines from being erected in Butler Twp. As for me, Chad and Jay, we don't want to see these Wind turbines in our township either. We need the people to come out and let the twp. officials know what they want done."
Kline said he hopes to have another meeting for the association and see where things are with BP and the appeal of the zoning decision. He said he doesn't expect them to sit back and forget about it, he feels this is something BP wants to pursue and has a big interest in it since they started the process in 2008 and are still working at it today.